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From Ringside: Enjoy Errol Spence Jr’s skill and persona

Is Errol Spence Jr the best pound-for-pound? He isn’t saying he is, and that’s part of what makes him so enjoyable.

Errol Spence v Lamont Peterson Photo by Anthony Geathers/Getty Images

Not quite sure what stands out most to me as of this moment, the power, or the humility.

OK, I guess the power. I saw “it” again, up close, within blood-splatter distance from ringside at Barclays Center on Saturday night, and it is something to behold.

And, frankly, to avoid, if you are the sort of pugilist whose chin isn’t of the teflon variety.

Peterson’s got a pretty good one, but one can’t dismiss the fact that Spence, a 27-year-old from Texas who on Saturday moved himself a step closer to becoming a legit “star” in this sphere, is also someone who can render organs inefficient. He finds that belt line, and then strafes the real estate with both hands, rattling kidneys, livers, ribs, all that tissue, and those nerve centers.

Detractors can and do note that Spence, now holding a 23-0 (20 KOs) mark, didn’t do anything that wasn’t expected of him in Brooklyn. Noted and not summarily dismissed. Peterson has been to this point a guy who is reliable B-sider, who can’t get over that hump against cemented A-siders. Now, he and his team wonder if he will soldier on, because the walloping Spence threw at him was one of those sorts of thumpings.

But I’d offer that detractors should concede that, given his druthers, Spence would have been in there against anyone you the fans want him to conquer. And, more and more of us think, he’d be doing to those A-listers a version of what he did to Leonard Bundu, Kell Brook, Lamont Peterson. Administering beatings that beg for the loser to enter into post-concussion protocol, just to be safe.

Yes, the power is real, and scary. Not one punch Tommy Hearns type. More the thudding type, which is injected from a punch that is thrown through the target, not one that is painted with a brush, Mayweather style. Spence doesn’t own a “hit and don’t get hit,” or, more appropriately, a “don’t get hit and hit enough to win rounds” style. The detractors, the nitpickers who would’ve taken to Twitter to ask more of Sugar Ray Robinson, say that Spence is vulnerable defensively. Sorry, not sorry, too many of them are social media marvels who think the best should never get hit, should never get dropped, are “chinny” if they so much as get wobbled.

Let’s move on to the humility. It is something to behold, and cherish. This Spence is all aw shucks, but still retains a healthy ego and professional pride that he isn’t afraid to call out the Thurmans and Crawfords and such. To wit: I asked Spence as he came to the post-fight presser in Barclays the question that leaped to my mind around round five of Spence-Peterson: Is Errol Spence the best pound-for-pound pugilist on this or any planet on this date?

“I woudn’t say I’m the pound-for-pound best fighter in the world right now, but I’m definitely headed that way,” he said.

He stated this with zero hubris dripping off his vocal chords. It is a statement of fact, delivered with an absence of hip hop (or any other influence) style posturing, with that hint of the suggestion that the vocalizer is seeking to convince themselves as well as you.

He stared straight ahead in addressing me, with a directness that suggests he is at ease with himself. No false bravado there, no boastfulness which appeals to people who have been raised on looking up to that mentality. He doesn’t want or need to try and throw questioners off balance with sarcastic quips or jabs thrown off the back foot, with a defensive flavor.

See it in this video:

See promoter Lou DiBela, stifling a grin, as he looks at the Texan and salivates at what he brings to the table.

So, what does he bring? He brings a package that we don’t always or even often get. He brings skills, a big basket. And the power, it is the sort that stirs water cooler chatter, virtual and real world. DiBella said it at the post-fight presser, that Spence performances are the types that result in lingering chatter, the “did you see that fight on Saturday night” variety.

And Spence isn’t overly enthralled by it. His head hasn’t ballooned. He’s all class, really. And that means that he’s a guy that people can love to love. That won’t be attracting as many eyeballs from people who want to see him lose as want to see him win.

He isn’t a heel performer, or a half-heel. He’s a throwback in a good way, the sort of guy you know refers to older ladies as ma’am. The sort who you can promote the hell out of without having to resort to trickery, or by maintaining his relevance by making outlandish or offensive statements, or getting in fracases outside the ring, or any of that.

He’s in the Golovkin mold, in that way, but he will available for Americans to root for, for people who want to root for the home flag fighter. (Nothing wrong with that, by the way, having national pride.)

I put the question to his trainer, the RING Trainer of the Year, Derrick James, who also tutors Jermell Charlo, the 154-pound gunner. Is Spence right now the pound-for-pound best boxer on earth?

“I think he possibly is, I don’t really know if he is or not. I think that he looked good, he fought a really tough guy.”

So, more of the same. Low key, humble, confident but not in an asshole-y way.

“Who can test Errol Spence?” I asked the trainer.

“I don’t really know,” James said. “We spar with heavyweights. I don’t know.”

My three cents: Can’t wait to find out, moving forward. Friends, enjoy this, savor it. A bigwig who shall remain nameless admitted to me after this win that, if he/she were given the ability to pick one guy to build around, any weight class, and that would include Floyd Mayweather, off hiatus, he/she would pick Spence.

People are starting to think maybe Spence could be THE standout of the era. From Ali to Tyson to De La Hoya to Mayweather to...maybe Spence. And damn right, I am not afraid to say, I love it. Because the way he acts, it’s easy for me to defend my sport when people degrade it.

The guy does his business magnificently, and he acts with class and dignity and humility that are admirable in any era. He doesn’t see press as “fake news” purveyors, he isn’t a risk to get into a dog-kicking incident. Not afraid to say it, I’m a Spence fan, because he is a role model athlete. My 10-year-old, who goes by “Bella,” met him, and digs him, knows he has a dog named Bella, and still remembers the hug he gave her two years ago. I’m a fan.

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